Tag Archives: email

email marketing – 8 steps to success

Steve Bennett 2

I have written this article based on the personal experience that I have had using email campaigns to generate sales.  I sent my first small email campaign in early 2001 and I now send more than 100,000 targeted emails every month. I am sharing my experiences in the hope that they may help you, whether you are just looking at starting your first email campaign or if you are a seasoned emailer, one thing is for sure, we will never stop learning!  In this article, I only touch on some subjects that deserve much more detail, such as email design and analysis of results.  In future months,  I will be writing further articles which will look at these important individual aspects in more detail.

email marketingSending an email to your customer is cheap, of this there is no doubt.  There is however a hidden cost, not that of the time taken to prepare and send the email, nor the fee charged by the email software company or the agency that you use – I am talking about the cost of being rejected by your customer or prospect. The feeling of rejection is no less painful when it is done by clicking on an unsubscribe button, than it is when it is done to you on the telephone or face to face.  But it so much easier for your customer to click on an unsubscribe button and once done, that customer or prospect may be lost to you forever.

Coming from a predominantly telemarketing background, I know that the first 10 seconds of an outbound sales call are the most important 10 seconds of the whole call – giving you the opportunity (or not) to connect with your customer, have the undivided attention of your customer and the trust of your customer  – in simple terms, it is being invited into your customer’s home to talk with them. The equivalent in email marketing for me, is the subject line of your email.

iStock_000018287957SmallGetting your email opened Every day, like you I am sure, I receive dozens of spurious, often spam emails, from companies offering me the opportunity to increase the size of vital parts of my body, to companies offering me the opportunity to increase the size of my bottom line.  As with most things in our lives, the 80-20 rule applies to email marketing.  I run down the list of subject lines in my inbox and I discard at least 80% without even clicking to open them. The trick – and the point of this article, is to always get your email into the 20% that are opened. In no particular order, here are my “eight steps to successful email marketing

1. Your “sent from” address

This is what the recipient of your email will see as the “sent from” address in their email inbox.  It is vital that you use this, with the subject line, to inspire confidence and connection with your customer.

For instance, if your customer knows you personally, make sure that you put your name in this field, if they are more likely to know and respect your brand, then put this in the field.  If neither are the case, then  ensure that you use something that is non-confrontational.  To compare this method of communication with telemarketing, this is, I suggest, the equivalent to the CLI presentation (your phone number) that appears on your customer’s telephone at home when you ring, so as an extreme example, don’t use sales@yourcompany.co.uk, as your customer will already have a perception of what is going to be in the email before they delete it!

2.  Your customer / prospect database

I will split this step into two distinct areas – existing customers and “other”, which in simple terms is anyone who is not an existing customer.

Existing Customers – ensure that you have the correct marketing rights to be able to send your customers an email.  I am not going to cover this aspect now, as it would require a complete article of its own, but if you are in any doubt, drop Victoria or Michelle a line and they’ll be happy to give you sensible advice on what you can and can’t do.  Ensure that you consider future contact with your customers whenever you interact with them and check with them that your contact details are up to date.  Whenever you take a customer’s email address, if they enter it themselves on-line, always ask them to key it in again to confirm it and if you take it verbally, always read it back to confirm spelling – just like a telephone number, one digit wrong and it is useless!  In your email, you must give your customers the option to unsubscribe from future emails.  Ensure that you make it clear that this is only unsubscribing them from receiving future emails (do not even mention phone or mail or any other method of communication that you might  use).

Compliance – Please, please, please be mindful of where you obtain your email address data from.  From bitter personal experience, using legitimately rented email addresses can be fraught with danger.  It is very important that you minimise the risk of your emails being marked as “spam” by internet companies, so you must ensure that your spam reports are kept to a minimum.  A spam report is where an internet provider has received a complaint from a recipient that you have sent them an email without having the right to do so (there are much more accurate, defined and probably legal definitions of this term than I have used, but this is sufficient for the purposes of this article ). And, as you’ll see in the TVA September data compliance update, the rules are getting even tougher.

3. Your reason for sending the email in the first place

Are you looking to generate sales directly from your email, are you looking to “tease” your customer into visiting your website, visiting your event, telephoning you?  Are you looking to inform your customer, keep in contact with them or reactivate them?

Don’t underestimate the damage an ill thought-out email can do to your company.  I once saw a company, with all good intentions, send an e-newsletter to their customers as they felt they did not communicate with them during their life time as a customer.  The net result of the very well written e-newsletter was that they lost more than 25% of their existing customers overnight !  Their recipients had forgotten that they had the service and given the reminder and ease of contact – they cancelled it.  So beware of good intentions!  Identify clearly in your own mind, what you want to achieve with your email and, if your goal is measurable by results, set yourself targets to achieve.

4. HTML or not HTML

As you will have surmised by now, I am no techie!  In my world, the difference between HTML and text emails is that HTML looks far more professional – however, I prefer not to use HTML myself.  I have always been an advocate of “the personal touch”.  If I receive a letter or an email from someone, I like to think that it is just for me, that nobody else has received it.  In a strange way, it makes me feel as though the person, or entity, who sent it to me, did so because they care.  With a professionally designed  HTML email, I feel that it is more akin to a glossy leaflet – something sent to the masses, rather than just me.  I have used both and I cannot give you decisive statistics that back up my theory, just my feelings.

5.  Make sure your email opens quickly

Not wishing to over use the telemarketing comparison, but, if there is no one at the end of the line when I pick up the phone, it doesn’t take me long to put the phone down.  I do the same with emails that don’t open quickly.   So, my recommendation is “keep it simple”.

If there are pictures in the email, you should ensure that there is also sufficient text for the recipient to get the message without having to download the pictures.  From both anecdotal feedback and  survey responses from customers, there are   many recipients who either do not, or will not click on the “download pictures” button because of the security warning message that is usually linked to it.  I understand that there are ways around having to download the pictures, but I do not understand the technology.  Where I have tested this method, I have found that the time it takes to open such an email is greater and depending on the speed of your internet connection, sometimes much longer.  

Another consideration whilst looking at the layout of an email, is the fact that more and more people are using their smart phones to read their emails whilst on the go.  When writing an email, always consider how it will appear on a mobile phone and whether or not the “call to action” processes will work if the email is read on a mobile phone.  In practice they will probably work better!

6. Analysing the results

Being a typical sales person, analysing results for me is about how many sales did we get from how many emails?  But of course there is much more to analyse than just this.  Depending on your method of deployment of your emails, whether you use an agency or do them yourselves and then which system you use, you will receive varying levels of management information.

The system that we use gives valuable, clear and simple information, including how many emails bounced, how many were reported as spam, how many were opened, how many click-throughs were generated overall from the email and a break down of how many click-throughs for each link.

In addition, I am able to export the email addresses who clicked on a specific link so that I can send them another email relating specifically to their journey from the original email.  For instance, if I included a link to an information page about an upcoming event, I could use the email addresses of those people who viewed the page to then send them another email, offering them a special ticket price.  I have become something of a geek, comparing how a link for a product on the left hand side of an email compares on click-throughs to a link for exactly the same product on the right hand side of the same email – and the differences can be quite staggering.  And don’t ever assume that if the link worked better on the right for database segment A, that it will also work better on the right for segment B – that would be too easy! Test, test, test and use the management information to analyse and refine.

7. The email marketing software / agency

This is very much down to personal choice.  There are plenty of agencies, both UK and offshore, who will promise the earth.  Some, I am sure will deliver the earth, but others won’t.  If you decide to use an agency, I recommend that you remember you are handing them the crown jewels of your company, your customers.  I am not brave enough to let them go, so we manage our own emails using an online email service provider.

Again there are many available on the internet and most offer a free trial period so that you can try before you buy.  The company that I have been using for the last five years are based in America, but I have total control over the emails using my on-line dashboard.

I am confident that my data is secure because of the initial due diligence that I did when selecting them and at the same time, I grilled them on their attitude to marketing rights on data.  They are very strict and will (and have) terminate clients who abuse the use of email data.  This is re-assuring if you are serious about running email campaigns as they are less likely to be affected by ISP’s who regard them as “spammers” and reject their emails.

8. The subject line

I have saved the most important part of the email campaign to the end.  The subject line – probably the first and in many cases the only line that a recipient will read.  It does not matter a jot how good the content of your email is – how amazing the offer is or how informative the information is – if the recipient doesn’t open it, they   will never know.

I have tested so many different subject lines in so many emails that I’ve lost count. I find it fascinating just how much one word can affect the open rate and the spam report rate.  Although every bone in my body tells me it is wrong, I still find for instance that if I use the word “Free” in the subject line, it increases the open rate and does not increase the spam report rate.

Don’t make the subject line too wordy and not too short. Test different subject lines and analyse the results carefully.  Take care when using references to subjects that your recipients may be sensitive about.  For instance, when I sent an email with a major brand name in the subject line, our spam reports increased because too many of the recipients found the brand offensive.

email marketing is ridiculed by many who say that industry average open rates are reducing, click-throughs are reducing and sales are reducing.  Poppycock!  Whatever our favoured method of marketing, we all have to work harder to win new customers and keep existing customers in this climate.  We have maintained our email open rates and they are well above the industry average and I am delighted to say that we still generate good levels of sales from our emails – with exceptionally low acquisition costs.

I wish you luck with your campaigns, and if you have any views, thoughts or want to share your own email marketing experiences, please comment below and let’s get the discussion going.

A true entrepreneur, Steve Bennett started his first business when he was 16 years old. At 21, he formed a joint venture with the UK’s largest TV rental company launching the first mail order video company in the UK. Steve started his career in finance and banking, working with companies such as GUS, British Credit Trust, and Financial Telemarketing Services.  He has a proven track record of providing businesses with effective sales and marketing support – both online and offline.  In addition, he is a director and shareholder of a number of companies ranging from telemarketing to digital printing and graphics to dogs to tea.  He is an associate consultant with Tuffill Verner Associates.

You can contact Steve by emailing stevebennett@dedico.co.uk or calling 07908 705188. 

© Steve Bennett, September 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steve Bennett, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Direct marketing – 13 communication channels …

Puffins larger and croppedThere’s a lot of huffing and puffin-g around marketing, even down to definitions of words and phrases. Take Direct Marketing, which seems to have a variety of definitions, including the very limited perception that it is just another name for Direct Mail.

Regardless of channel, direct Marketing is really all about communication. The Wikipedia definition states:Direct marketing is a channel-agnostic form of advertising that allows businesses and non-profits organisations to communicate straight to the customer.

Shouting loudly in public may generate awareness, but it won’t generate effective engagement.

Direct marketing is indeed channel-agnostic. And effective direct marketing needs to be targeted to a specific audience, with the individual marketing communication (through whatever channel) written and designed for the group of individuals who will receive it.

Direct marketing should also generate some kind of measurable reaction or response from the recipient – whether that be to visit (and buy from) a store, website or social media platform; to reply to an email, or to place an order by post, online, mobile or telephone.

Measuring the response to direct marketing activity can be challenging if the desired reaction is less tangible than, for example, an actual purchase or physical response to the marketer.

Over the next months we’ll cover the main channels in our blog, including the top thirteen which are (in no particular order):

  1. Direct Mail
  2. Email
  3. Online
  4. Mobile / smartphone
  5. Telephone
  6. Press advertising
  7. Inserts and product despatches
  8. Social Media
  9. Billing and loyalty devices / vouchers
  10. Direct Response TV
  11. Direct sales (eg Tupperware parties)
  12. Door drops
  13. Content marketing

The disciplines behind direct marketing carry through all of these channels. Regardless of whether you are mailing, calling, advertising or selling online, the key elements of a successful direct marketing campaign are:

  1. Data quality and accuracy (postal address, email address, telephone number, mobile number)
  2. Understanding the customer or prospect (purchase history, demographics, geography, lifestyle and affluence profiles)
  3. Turning data, analysis and research into insight, to ensure appropriate marketing, relevant list and media selection (online and offline); appropriate selection of channels and channel integration
  4. Determining offer and price
  5. Creating copy and design (which will need to be specific to each channel)
  6. Budgeting, including break-even metrics and “what-if” scenarios to evaluate and establish required financial performance
  7. Forecasting response and financial performance based on history and recent evidence
  8. Measuring performance regularly and ongoing
  9. Proactively developing and refining marketing strategy based on performance
  10. Maintaining appropriate levels of service and quality

Finally, there is a great deal of talk about integrated marketing, and while it’s an excellent start to have cohesive brand and messaging delivered through all channels, there’s more to it than that.

Targeting relevant customers through relevant channels based on what the customer wants – while allowing them to respond through their own channel of choice (which may be different again) is a vital part of any successful direct marketing campaign.

The channels should interact in a way designed to ensure engagement – maybe by moving consumers across the channels, for example from TV to social media platforms, like Daz, Innocent, Aero and by getting them involved in alternative or more complex storylines, or voting for favourite characters or flavours, or entering competitions etc. This is the sort of behaviour that engenders brand engagement, affection and loyalty.

More puffins croppedVictoria Tuffill       01787 277742     07967 148398   victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk

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Multi-channel marketing … in schools

I was fortunate enough to enjoy reading and literature from a very young age, and, as a child, my father introduced me to Isaac Asimov. I promptly inhaled all his fiction, and, in particular, I remember reading a short story which has always stuck in my mind, called “The Fun They Had”. In that story, two children are reading with wistful enjoyment (and utter disbelief that any human could possibly know enough to be able to teach) about something called “school”, where children learnt and played together.

In Asimov’s future, every child has a mechanical “teacher” in their own home – programmed to the child’s own ability, which teaches and assesses its pupil on all subjects. The story was written in the 1950s and some 60 years later, Asimov’s vision of the future of teaching seems to be moving ever closer – and it’s certainly not taking hundreds of years.

Today we have extensive online education tools through all stages of education – from primary school vles (virtual learning environments) such as Espresso and Education City to all the way up to the scale to university and beyond. We have Fronter from Pearson – now widely adopted in London … there’s Noodle … Moodle … online revision tools … CEM (introduced into universities as early as the 1990s and since adjusted for use earlier in the educational process) … Open University has invested heavily in digital tools … support apprentice programmes like Blackboard; and many adult e-learning courses both for businesses and individuals.

However, there are still schools and universities, many of which are embracing technology in ways that other business sectors may find enviable.

Multiple marketing channels in education

Modern technology not only allows the provision of e-education, it also enables schools, colleges and universities to promote themselves, their brand, their goals, their community and their achievements to meet their own business goals and fulfil their ambitions.

Schools have unique challenges, which they address through the combined use of digital and traditional channels. State and private schools have subtly different goals, but today schools from both sectors are embracing technology to support their core priorities:

  • improved levels of achievement for their pupils (and better rankings in league tables)
  • a strong desire (particularly in the private sector) to raise awareness and persuade potential parents to choose that particular school for their children – just the same as any other business, but servicing a very specific market sector

The differences in technological philosophy between private schools (who have to find their pupils) and state schools (where pupils are admitted based on geographic location) are interesting. In general terms, state schools have been driving e-learning based on the curriculum; while private schools have been embracing technology to drive marketing.

But those differences are gradually becoming blurred, particularly with the advent of Academies and Free Schools. Schools use a variety of marketing channels to promote themselves and their community – from websites, SEO, print, direct mail, email, social media, e-learning, mobile technology, and TV and radio.

A strong emphasis on websites

Websites are essentially an interactive prospectus for schools, and provide a channel for self-promotion, dissemination of rules and policies and, importantly, to:

  • Engage parents – through inclusion of information, fixtures, exam statistics, OFSTED reports, news, pupils’ work and homework, blogs, school reports
  • Engage pupils – provide the facility for pupils to engage with each other and their teachers through private areas of the website, offer e-learning including “games”; internal debates; encourage contribution to school news reports and blogs
  • Engage the local community – publicise and involve the local community in school events, support local events, and form links with local industries
  • Raise money – publicise fundraising events; school charities; alumni engagement
  • Sell merchandise online – uniforms, equipment, sportswear – even souvenirs –directly from the website

There are some fantastic websites both from private and, more recently, state schools, who are now starting to see and reap the benefits of a good website as they begin to identify themselves as a business.

Social Media, digital and traditional PR

Use of digital PR is increasing in schools, combined with traditional PR through press and media, in a cohesive and integrated strategy to keep branding awareness, engagement and enjoyment of the school firmly in the public eye. A great OFSTED report should be shouted from the rooftops – as well as within a schools reception area; a visit from a famous author or celebrity makes an involving story; excellent exam results; a particular pupil or group of pupil’s remarkable achievement; school charity fundraising; particular sporting success; availability of school facilities to the community – all these provide opportunities to communicate and publicise the school both locally and farther afield.

But social media in schools has obvious challenges, and often has its own section in a communications / ICT policy. A problem with bullying or inappropriate posting is very serious. So it can be a tricky balance for a school to use Facebook or Twitter to promote themselves while adopting a proscriptive approach about whether or how their pupils may use them.

However, blogs, e-newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest can be an effective part of a school’s overall multi-channel strategy, and can set an example to involve pupils in how to use social media wisely and understand their benefits.

A good example is set by Kelly College, who uses Facebook to promote the school, disseminate information, generate interest, good press and involvement for parents, staff, pupils, and the local and wider community – working almost as a microsite of the school website.

Of course the traditional PR channels are also used – press, community magazines, a printed prospectus with stunning photography, broadcast media, posters and print. Broadcast has an added advantage of the ability to load videos onto the website and Facebook and You Tube … to enhance involvement and drive improved Google rankings.

Keeping up with Technology

It’s noteworthy that much of the technological innovation in education comes from the children first – they know and use the new technology; they have an instinctive understanding of social media, the internet, tablets, smartphones and the internet – all of which are a fundamental, living and breathing part of their lives. There are “rate your teacher” or “rate your food” sites; children already use social media to keep in touch with their friends … and to achieve objectives – whether it’s a Twitter campaign to prevent the appointment of a new head teacher, or a fund-raising exercise from a blog about school meals. So how much of a school’s social marketing activity could – and should – be developed and produced with pupil involvement ‘in-school’?

The increasing availability of notebooks and ipads is also impacting schools – it’s not that long ago that having an ICT suite was considered very forward thinking. Now schools are developing and implementing strategies for a time when all pupils have notebooks or ipads – in which case ICT will become a thing of the past!

My thanks to Jessica Avery and Peter Provins for sparing the time to talk to me.

by Victoria Tuffill, August 2012

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.